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Pollica, Italy, 21 July 2022

The Wiesenthal Centre Director for International Relations, Dr Shimon Samuels, spoke at the “Building DiverCity” youth Bootcamp in Pollica, Italy, focusing on the role of the Jews in building and supporting urban societies.

This pilot project Bootcamp was composed of municipal youth from ICCAR (UNESCO’s International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities) and its largest counterpart ECCAR (European Coalition of Cities Against Racism). The latter now counts 162 member municipalities and is partnered with the Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s European office (SWC-Europe), in particular concerning antisemitism.

The event’s keywords were “Glocalization” (a neologism marrying global and local, i.e. international youth and experts focusing on how to promote change from a local municipal perspective) and “Convivium” (a Latin term indicating a feast welcoming dialogue among diverse groups). It was co-sponsored by UNESCO and hosted by the Future Food Institute, based in Bologna and in Pollica, a small town in Southern Italy, home to the “Mediterranean diet”.

The workshop on antisemitism was opened by the President of both ICCAR and ECCAR, Benedetto Zacchiroli, who spoke of the organizations’ close relationship with the Wiesenthal Centre.

Samuels described antisemitism as “a drop of mercury in the palm of the hand... when the environment is cool and stable it remains small and flat, when heated and hostile, it bulges according to the prevalent fever.”

“Throughout history, Jews and Gentiles have together shaped cities, from ancient Babylon and Alexandria to today’s Paris or New York.”

“Over the centuries, Jewish communities were persecuted or expelled – from Cordoba, Baghdad, Aden or Tripoli – finding refuge in other towns, often secluded in ghettos – Warsaw, Rome or Prague, among others – or again subject to pogroms, until they could find more welcoming cities.”

Samuels added, “Even today, Diaspora Jews find themselves making decisions, if to remain in one city or move on to another more tolerant towards diversity. This has been the case of a thriving and integrated community in Sarcelles, a northern Paris suburb, that has progressively escaped from harassment to the safer and more densely Jewish areas of central Paris. There are similar examples in many European countries.”

“Our mentor, Simon Wiesenthal, would have said, ‘what starts with the Jews is a barometer, an early warning system’...”

“May the participants in this bootcamp return to their municipalities eager and prepared to protect all from hate and violence. We look forward to watching each of you rise to become an effective and open-minded mayor of your city,” stated Samuels.

Click on YouTube link to view speech with PowerPoint presentation: